Stephen Errity, GT Correspondent
Hours 6 to 9
After nine hours of hard racing at the Nurburgring Nordschleife, there are still 17 of the top GT3 class cars on the lead lap. The works-supported #19 BMW Team Schubert Z4 continues to hold the lead, just over 20 seconds ahead of the #2 Audi Sport Team Phoenix. A further minute back is the #22 Rowe Racing Mercedes SLS AMG of Graf/Jager/Roloff/Seyffahrt, which has overhauled the fourth-place #65 Hankook-Heico car as the leading Mercedes representative in the race. The second of the two Team Phoenix Audis, the #3 Basseng/Haase/Stippler/Winkelhock lies close behind in fifth. Approaching 11pm local time, only three minutes covered the top six runners, which were rounded out by the #26 Mamerow Racing Audi R8.
Porsche are still struggling to make a real impression on the sharp end of the field, with the #11 Manthey Racing car of Lieb/Lietz/Dumas/Luhr suffering a refuelling problem that led to a longer-than-expected pitstop. One BMW GT3 team no longer in contention for overall honours is the Marc VDS #29 entry of Bas Leinders, Markus Palttala and Maxime Martin, which has suffered excessive tyre wear and clutch problems that have delayed it in the pits.
All cars in the leading GT3 group have been running nine-lap stints, but the pace was wound back slightly for a long time while yellow flags covered marshals repairing barriers near the Pflanzgarten corner where the Gemballa McLaren had its serious accident. The two Dorr Motorsport McLarens have also long since retired, ending the new MP4-12C GT3 car's involvement with this year's Nurburgring 24.
Further down the field, the leading non-GT3 car is the Gazoo Racing Lexus LF-A with the all-Japanese driver lineup of Kinoshita/Iida/Wakisaka – a remarkably strong performance from what is essentially a lightly race-prepared road car. Second in this class is the #005 Aston Martin Zagato, doing comparatively better than its GT3-class bigger brothers, which continue to recover from their earlier tyre and gearbox issues. Elsewhere, the #72 GT4 Porsche is currently circulating without a driver's door after losing it in a tyre blowout earlier in the race – not something that would be allowed at many other races.
Audi and Mercedes pushing BMW at the Ring
BMW loses the lead as N24 passes half distance